Coalition by Sarah Wooley

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Radio 4 Afternoon Play website

BBC Radio 4, 6 January 2012
Iris (Maureen Beattie) is a successful junior minister in the coalition government. A former teacher and business person, she is well liked by politicians of all political persuasions for her honesty and integrity. Matters start to go awry, however, when her husband Bill (Nicholas le Prevost) has a brief fling with a much younger woman Ruby (Melody Grove), which leads to the discovery of secrets about Rose's past life that threaten her ministerial and personal future.
Sarah Wooley's play explored the pitfalls of being a politician; however much one might try to lead a blameless existence, one's past often resurfaces at the most inopportune moment. Iris tried to tell the truth about her life, but finds that even her most innocent actions were often misinterpreted, especially by those (in the media, or in public life) with an interest in seeing her discomfited. The only way she survived was to rely on her protean political aide Mackenzie (Robin Laing), who realized long ago the importance of 'managing' people.
The play's title - Coalition - not only referred to the business of government, but suggested the importance of cultivating relationships, whether personal or professional. The best way to survive in politics is not necessarily to follow one's instincts, but forge coalitions between people, so as to keep them happy and prevent them from endangering one's future. Mackenzie understood this; and hence ensured Iris's survival in the next political reshuffle, even though she believed that she was going to be demoted.
Maureen Beattie gave a vocally nuanced performance as Iris; she began the play full of confidence in her future, but as the action unfolded, her tone of voice became less and less assured, as she understood the presence of circumstances beyond her control. In the end it was Mackenzie who assumed the dominant role; like Peter Capaldi's Malcolm Tucker in the television comedy The Thick of It, he was the power behind the politician. 
Coalition held the attention throughout, proving beyond doubt that politics is a dirty game. The director was Gaynor MacFarlane.